Unknown Hinson: Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Straight From Hell (Capitol)

A creature of mutant sideburns, a gimlet eye, and a grin so ghastly that perhaps only professional Irishman Shane MacGowan may more need an orthodontist.

If Country Weekly merged with Famous Monsters of Filmland, the magazine so formed might well focus its first cover feature on Unknown Hinson.

Hinson (né Danny Baker) recently released Rock ’n’ Roll Is Straight From Hell, his major-label debut, and the guitar-driven six-song EP, sincerely or otherwise, embraces the pop lunatic fringe enough to serve as a tonic to the sonic pabulum of most contemporary commercial country. Roughly a year ago, a local magazine named Hinson one of the ten scariest people in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, and he certainly looks the part on the covers of the new disc: a creature of mutant sideburns, a gimlet eye, and a grin so ghastly that perhaps only professional Irishman Shane MacGowan may more need an orthodontist.

Musically, moreover, Hinson plays to the hilt the role of the roadhouse rowdy, the trailer-trash troubadour. “It’s a long, long way to walk in high heels,” he threatens one hapless inamorata on “Silver Platter,” the live cut that opens this 17.33-minute freakazoid serenade. Two tracks later, on “It Don’t Bother Me,” he snorts at a restraining order and drawls, “I can break that and stalk you ever’ minute you’re alone.” Even to listeners who loathe political correctness, of course, such stuff might cause consternation, even alarm, but for the suspicion that Hinson, as suggested earlier, is just playacting. (In inter-song patter at one point, he assures an interlocutor, “I like soft foods that you can eat with a straw.”)

It helps also that Hinson (who here largely performs solo) makes raucous, quasi-raunchy music like the title track, the memorably named “Don’t Bite the Lips That Kiss You,” and “Lingerie,” the longest and only other live offering on Rock ’n’ Roll Is Straight From Hell, which defies expectations, on multiple listenings, by seeming every bit as wise as it is wild.

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